CEO & President Member Newsletters
4Q 2019: ARF Research Initiative Updates
As we move into the final quarter of 2019, it seems a good time to update you on the progress of this year’s program of ARF primary research.
You might recall that, starting in January of this year, we made some significant changes to our process for developing research projects. Instead of funding them through sponsor fundraising, we shifted to funding the research program directly from member dues—asking each member company to vote with their dollars on how they wanted their dues to be apportioned among the seven broad areas of activity noted below. This gave us a very democratic basis for allocating spending and aligning with member priorities.
Here is how you collectively directed us to prioritize spending:
- 26% Cross-platform audience measurement
- 23% ROI and attribution
- 15% Future states (driven by tech changes, social changes, etc.)
- 12% Leveraging data for insights (data quality, analytic strategies)
- 10% Changing consumer attitudes and behaviors
- 9% Advertising creative
- 5% Organizing teams and talent (balancing classic research with data analytics)
Of course, one could tackle many different studies under any of these seven broad topics, so the devil is in the details of specific studies. In 2019 ideas for specific research projects came from member inspirations, board discussions, “over the transom” proposals, logical extensions of prior ARF research, and, of course, suggestions from among the ARF staff. More than 30 specific initiatives were considered—in some cases with lots of back and forth to clarify methods or scope.
The “jury” that helped the ARF review the specific topics and research ideas was the hard-working Research Leadership Committee (RLC), a new group organized for the first time in 2019. Like a real jury, the RLC was comprised of 12 citizens—in this instance 12 volunteer member companies that more or less mirrored the composition of the broader ARF membership representing marketers, agencies, media and research companies. Out of their deliberations, we zeroed in on a strong but diverse set of projects:
1. Cross-Platform Audience Measurement. On this critical topic, the key initiative aims to support the development of MRC standards by studying the empirical relationship between duration of video views and market outcomes. The planned study will sync biometric data on viewing durations with passively-collected sales data, leveraging the distinctive strengths of data generated by diverse ARF member companies. Expected completion is late in Q1 2020.
2. ROI & Attribution. A new ARF research effort in this area builds on the work from the U.K.’s Institute of Practitioners of Advertising (IPA) that was reported by Les Binet at last April’s AUDIENCExSCIENCE. That research, based on a marketing campaign database built over the past 25 years, addresses broad questions of how marketers should balance allocations between upper-funnel (brand support) and lower-funnel (sales activation). The ARF’s current initiative is a proof-of-concept (POC) effort to develop a similar longitudinal campaign database from a retooling of the annual applications for the ARF David Ogilvy Awards. The effort is being done in collaboration with the IPA. The initial POC database is slated for completion by end of year. In addition, our CIMM subsidiary has its own important project in the works that hopes to address and reduce anomalies in the video exposure inputs to attribution models.
3. Future States. The key initiative here concerns the fast-changing world of OTT video consumption. A study that will be presented at our OTT conference in Los Angeles on October 22 will provide a current snapshot of how the explosion in program choices is changing content discovery and program selection strategies for different consumer segments.
4. Leveraging Data. This effort builds on foundational work done last year, assessing the viability of surveys to validate the accuracy of digital data targets sold by data vendors. We anticipate results by end of year.
5. Changing Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors. We have already launched two efforts:
- One was our study, released last month to considerable press attention, of changing attitudes toward privacy—including what is regarded as PII, what cash value is assigned to different types of personal data, and the degree of comprehension of typical opt-out privacy notices used in online terms and conditions.
- A second study, just beginning now, examines the question of whether brand loyalty is declining and whether younger consumers are less brand-loyal; the research will examine transactional databases covering 10-year and 5-year time horizons for indicators of changing loyalty patterns.
6. Advertising Creative. Two studies related to ad creative are in the pipeline:
- One is an ambitious attempt to examine “Purpose Campaigns” and understand what drives their success or failure—hopefully to develop an ARF framework for marketers’ evaluation of them. This study is slated for release in 1Q 2020.
- A second study that will be released this month focuses on how agency creative teams use research in the creative process.
7. Teams and Talent. On this topic, we recently completed an industry benchmark study (built largely from our broad membership of 400 companies) on how research & insights departments are organized within companies right now. Building on the well-known BCG model of organizational effectiveness, this study considers the emerging org charts of 21st century enterprises, the balance between “big data” and “small data” functions, control of budgets, reporting structures, and talent requirements in the evolving field. Results will be reported in stages beginning next month. Companies that want to compare themselves to the industry benchmark can commission custom modules directly from ARF Research and Analytics by emailing Paul Donato – firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can see, we have a full agenda of work in various stages of completion. Look for the releases as they come out, and let us know what you think. Even better, consider the ways that you can participate in the process of setting the research agenda for 2020, including:
- Voting your preferences when the “401K” ballots go out in a few weeks
- Taking a seat on the Research Leadership Committee to help us evaluate specific ideas and proposals
- Sending us suggestions for research topics, designs, approaches to industry issues, and ideas, touching on our seven topical areas cited earlier in this email
- If you have data that, even if collected for a different purpose, would shed light on some of the big industry issues that concern ARF members, consider offering it for further analysis by the ARF team. Contact me or Paul Donato to discuss.
Last but not least, if your company has occasions—meetings, conferences, training sessions—where the audience would benefit from hearing results of one of our inquiries, don’t be shy about asking. Though we don’t always have bandwidth to answer all such requests, we plan to make it easier in 2020 for YOU to grab the key slides and use ARF research in your own presentations.
All the best,